This is an annual event taking place usually in October. It is run by NYMR and re-creates life in World War 2. It is centred on the small market town of Pickering in Yorkshire and extends along the railway line to stations on the way to Whitby. I have written a review on Levisham (Le Visham) station, this review is a continuation of the day.
After several hours absorbing the atmosphere of Le Visham, with its French inhabitants and occupying German troops, we boarded a train to Pickering. The train approached clanking and puffing smoke. It stopped and a hiss of steam temporarily blocked the vision of the coaches. There was then a mad rush to get aboard and find a seat. Our grandchildren sat on our knees, people stood in the aisles. We rattled along through moors golden with bracken under a heavy purple, grey sky. My grandson, and myself, stood by the carriage door with its open window to take photos. ‘Mind the smoke, you’ll get smut in your eyes’ Grandson looked blank, but I remember when all train journeys were steam. The atmosphere was very jolly and friendly. An elderly man with a bolder hat played a ‘squeeze box’ accordion, which he gave my grandson to try.
We arrived at Pickering. It was like a suburban rush hour, we had to inch along the platform. I was grateful that the grandchildren still had their name tags attached from an evacuation exercise the previous day, when their whole small school had been evacuated from Goatland to Pickering. Back in time for the end of the school day though, which rather defeated the experience!
Once outside the station, we were amazed at the sight of old commercial vehicles lining the street – lorries, buses, delivery vans. I especially liked the green grocery van with colourful fruit and vegetable items displayed like a mini market stall complete with old fashioned scales and prices in sterling. Our eyes were bombarded by unusual images, not just the vehicles, but people too. Our ears were blasted by noise, people laughing and singing with a background of strident music from a steam organ.
The main street had been closed, and was lined with old vehicles -armoured cars, jeeps, vintage cars and motor bikes. On a smaller scale, there was a bicycle with side car, complete with two dolls for passengers. I noticed several old fashioned prams being pushed along, most with dolls, but one with a real toddler in – dressed in 40s fair-isle cardigan with a large ribbon in her hair and looking rather baffled!
The street was very crowded, with groups of people standing around chatting and the pubs overflowing onto the pavements. I remember seeing travel agent brochures advertising this weekend, so people must have come from far and wide.
What a variety of people too! I have snapshots of them in my mind. There was an elderly man with long flowing white beard and his wife who clutched a wicker basket, both in their rural Sunday best. Young girls with ‘victory’ roll hairstyles, fur wraps, smart hats and dresses, heeled shoes and stockings with seams up the back, giggling along on twos and threes. The most amusing character had to be a soulful grown man dressed as an evacuee child, with short trousers, snake belt, fair-isle pullover, cap, name label and small suitcase. The smartest character was a starlet or femme fatale who posed for a small army of photographer in a quiet alley. There were lots of uniformed characters from every service and rank, accompanied by smartly dressed women.
It was a happy event, full of reminiscences for some, discovery of the past for others and dancing in the street for sheer joy.